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1984 Reviews

page six


October 25th, 1984  late

I put this tape into my deck with rather high expectations. I knew the sound was excellent, and the setlist looked nice, with most of my favourite guitar vehicles from this tour, and I seemed to recall that I was pretty impressed with the performance when I'd listened to it before. Given this, the show turned out a disappoinment. It's not a bad show, but it's a show without any highlights - no extraordinary guitar solos and no secret word usage.

Things start out with a nice surprise, a "new" show opener: King Kong. Unfortunately, this classic has none of the Monster Status it had on earlier (and later) tours, but just contains a guitar solo, and a pretty
forgettable one. And this is only the first in a row of disappointments: Truckdriver Divorce, Drowning Witch and The Black Page all come with sub- par solos - not necessarily bad, but far from the highlights you could expect. The only solos that come close to the expectations are Ride My Face To Chicago
(funny R&R/boogie playing) and Let's Move To Cleveland.

Cleveland is by far the most interesting things that happens tonight. Alan's solo is pretty good, while FZ's is a mixed plate. Frank, Chad and Scott start from scratch, and for the first minute or so, none of them seems to know where to go. Slowly but surely they start to find something, a slow, pounding 4/4 rhythm with Frank playing in a scary mode, which grows into a really great air sculpture. Then FZ changes style, throwing in a quote I can't identify. The jam goes through a transition where things cool off a bit, ending up in a vamp similar to the old, but in 12/8 this time. They once again manage to build up to a climax, and without a doubt, the highlight of the evening.

As I mentioned above, there's no secret word tonight, but I did actually laugh twice while listening to the tape. First in Drowning Witch, where Frank and Ike start singing the "mouth noise" intro of Little Girl Of Mine over the Ritual Sacrifice part. Stravinskij meets doo-wop - hilarious! Then, one of the nworst train wrecks in The Black Page I've heard, almost equally hilarious. As I think I've said before in these reviews, I don't understand why FZ held on to this tempo throughout the tour. It's impressive on the few occasion they manage it, but on the whole, it's far below what Frank usually tolerated.


October 26th, 1984

Zoot Allures starts out like a typical bad 1984 ZA, with Frank, Chad, Scott and Alan noodling around in their own little worlds, seemingly without listening to each other. Near the end, though, they achieve some really good collective improvisation, adding each other's ideas into a sum that's greater
than its parts.

The muddy sound on my tape makes it pretty hard to tell what's going on at times, especially during the more energetic improvised parts. This is especially sad since Chad seems to have a really inspired night - it's obvious that he's doing some really good drumming in songs like Bamboozled By Love and Black Page, but unfortunately, it only serves to blur the sound. Especially BP, with a Them Or Us vamp, sounds like it could be really memorable. Oh, it seems as if Frank had the boys practise this piece since yesterday, as we get one of the tightest versions of the tour so far.

The following 30 min are nice to hear for some nice song choices. Daddy  Daddy Daddy, Lucille, The Evil Prince and Nite Owl highlight the vocal skills of this band. The solo in TEP is strikingly similar to the YCDTOSA 4 version, and just as good. In yesterday's review, I complained about the non-monstrousity of King Kong, and while this is still true, we get a better guitar solo tonight (which will be released as Diplodocus in a hopefully not-too-distant future).

After this nice suite, it's back to overplayed-songs-land.  Trouble/Penguin/Green Hotel are all in dire need of new vamps, and all  three are downright boring. Garage/Pee follows, and the latter at least has some lyrical mutations, though I can't make them out. The encores begin with tonight's only real surprise - Happy Birthday, sung for one Michelle in the audience. It's a true '84 rendition, with reggae beat and nice vocal

During the last songs, some secret word theme evolves and culminates in  Cosmik Debris. I don't hear/understand what they're talking about, but it seems to involve Alan and someone spraying something on someone. Whippin Post, with a dull solo, closes the set.

For the '84 hardcores only.


October 31st, 1984  early

This show gets off to a less than auspicious start with the '84 arrangement of Apostrophe, one of the worst openers of all time. Either Thunes is buried in the mix or he doesn't even try to emulate Jack Bruce's solo, FZ's guitar break lasts all of 20 seconds, and the synths and electronic drums are up front. Ugh. Fortunately, by the time FZ starts his solo in the next song (Tiny Lites), Chad sounds like he wants this to be a good show, and by the time Thunes becomes audible (in the following song, YAWYI) he does too. FZ obliges with decent, if short, solos in each of his small number of features.

Overall, though, this is one oldies-act snooze of a show. Dull setlist (Alien Orifice gets an A for effort, but Alan's synth is no compensation for the absence of Tommy, Steve and Ed), no secret words (FZ gets in one amusing quip about "the ruins of the Palladium" during Mudd Club, and tells the story about the Helsinki fan requesting Whipping Post) and not much enthusiasm in general. Stay home and help out your local trick-or-treaters.


October 31st, 1984  late

At the start of this show, FZ mentions that the police had to shove around audience members who wouldn't sit down at the first show, which might explain why this was such a perfunctory performance. The second show is slightly better, but not much.

Mostly the same story - predictable setlist (more good stuff than the first show), no major Secret Words, and generally average guitar solos : Zoot Allures peters out after a short time, and FZ seems not to be able to get any inspiration from the first Drowning Witch vamp on this tour, but he sounds awake on Truck Driver Divorce and Bamboozled By Love (Chad unleashes a berzerk fill near the end of this solo). The rhythm section slips into the Them Or Us vamp again in the second half of the BP #2 solo. All three solos (Alan, Chad and FZ) on Kreegah Bondola will hold your attention. FZ quotes the entire Mr. Green Genes melody during Illinois Enema Bandit.

That's about all, except that once again Scott and Chad deserve special praise. That's not a slight on the rest of the band - as on most FZ tours, they all do their jobs very well. However, the bassist and drummer simply refuse to be dull. Listen to a tape like this and you'll understand why FZ wouldn't fire Thunes in 1988.

Unfortunately, the rhythm section isn't enough to make this tape worth recommending. There are other Halloween shows that rival these two for poor quality (1980), but suffice it to say that no one will mention these tapes in the same breath as the 77 or 78 shows.


November 2nd, 1984

Heading into November, we find the shows getting more interesting, both musically and in terms of the setlists. While we won't get to the really top drawer 1984 shows for another 3 weeks or so, this Montreal effort is no slouch, managing to entertain if not amaze during its 135 minutes.

It does get off to a slow start, with Zoot Allures, In France, and MTED all providing unmemorable solo efforts. Penguin is more interesting, but as usual, too short to get anything going. Luckily, Green Hotel is much better, with a fairly lengthy effort giving the first cool FZ of the evening.

After this comes a series of 'second show' songs, with Alien Orifice being given a respectable 84 effort (with a very nice piano lick), and Nig Biz having a longer than usual parade of solos, with FZ coming in on the end. (Scott's bass solos in Nig Biz always sound very awkward to me - definitely more of a groove bassist.) The secret words (King Tut and 'It's getting bigger!') are used sparingly throughout.

Second set begins with King Kong, still sounding very tentative as a solo vehicle (it would soon be dropped). Truck Driver Divorce, on the other hand, is finally sounding interesting again, with a great dissonant solo. And Daddy Daddy Daddy sounds wonderful with the 84 band - wish he'd released this instead of another Honey, Don't etc.

Now, say it together with me - the highlight of the show is Cleveland. ^_^ Alan's solo is more interesting than usual, avoiding many of his repetitive pitfalls. Frank's, though, is great. Whenever Frank turns on a loop, you can be pretty sure of a good solo to follow, and this Cleveland has *3* vamps going simultaneously. The result is a quite majestic solo, making one think of the King Tut refs Frank and company were making earlier.

After this, the rest of the show continues as per normal, with the 50s medley, a Sharleena with ridiculoulsy short solo, and a Whipping Post where Frank manages to inject the 'bigger' secret word into the middle of his solo. So, not a great concert, but entertaining enough to keep a person interested, and the Cleveland solo is great.


November 3rd, 1984  early

Both shows from this night are available on excellent board tapes. I've seen these around in various stages of generational deterioration - hold out for a low-gen A or A- copy of each.

The first show starts with the fast-food '84 King Kong, and what ensues is nothing more or less than an average, rocking '84 show. There are no Secret Words except for a few references to the venue and panties being thrown onstage, but by now, "average" isn't too bad. Thunes throws in some nice harmonics and licks here and there. FZ's second Drowning Witch solo made me sit up (he paraphrases the melody of Black Napkins, and Thunes gets in a very cool harmonic alteration at one point), and his I.E. Bandit solo has some interesting elements including a Lohengrin quote, but the tape cuts. (Does anyone have a copy that doesn't?)

That's about all. A normal, good show, but it gets extra points for being a SBD.


November 3rd, 1984  late

This tape gets basically the same review as the early show - a solid performance with excellent tape quality. As was often the case, though, the atmosphere is looser at the second show, with a couple of Secret Words ("peanut" and something having to do with FZ introducing Ike with his full given name) and a belated Halloween costume demonstration during Goblin Girl. (Why nothing like that happened on Halloween itself I don't know.)

We also get more interesting solo vehicles here than during the first show. On Trouble Every Day FZ kicks in a jagged single-chord loop which makes for an interesting launch for the solo. Black Page seems to be an especially good solo vehicle this tour (not as good as 82, but better than 81 or 88), since the rhythm section takes the initiative to explore on this one, as they do on Truck Driver Divorce. As usual, though, nothing is more explorative than Kreega Bondola, which testifies to the high degree of aural skills this band had. Tonight's solo achieves a "should have been on CD" level, in my opinion. It's also nice to hear I'm The Slime, which is not as common this year as it could have been.

A most entertaining tape.


November 8th, 1984

Nice-looking setlist and very good sound, but being an experienced and tough-skinned 84-band-listener by now, I don't let that raise my expectations. The first couple of minutes don't seem promising at all, and I
prepare myself for another negative review. Black Napkins opens in its ugly 84-reggae-type style, with an almost non-existant solo. Next, Bamboozled By Love which is where things begin to change. At first, FZ is just noodling around, going nowhere, but all of a sudden he enters a new, oriental-sounding mode, quit unusual for this vehicle. This was obviously what Frank (and the show) needed; here he finds a well of inspiration, which makes the rest of the solo - and the show - pretty memorable.

Drowning Witch brings us two great solos, and by now, the rhythm section is catching up too. Good versions of Ride My Face To Chicago and Goblin Girl follow, and the Black Page head is played really well. They have a little down during the first half of the BP solo - lethargic playing by everyone,
including Frank. But he once again gets a sudden inspirational surge, kicking off a little Let's Move To Cleveland lick, which somehow wakes the whole band up, and the conclusion of the solo is very good.

Alien Orifice has a cool little jazz interlude with Chad, Scott and Allan before FZ's solo. The Evil Prince is always a treat, and the solo is very good, though much of it is sadly missing due to a tape flip. The regular set ends with Joe's/Pee, and there are noly two encore numbers evident on my tape: Sharleena, with a nice, sparkling solo, and Whippin' Post, with a rather dull one. Interestingly enough, this seems to be the entire concert, though it clocks at just a little more than an hour. Pretty nice show, though, good song
selections, great sound and some really nice solos.


November 9th, 1984

While the first part of this final '84-tour leg may be one of the least exciting of the whole tour, we have now entered a phaze where the band is sharpening their claws and cleaning their fangs. This is not exactly a great show, but it displays a new willingness to experiment and stretch out the improvisations. Frank and the boys take the jams much farther out, and take much bigger risks than we've grown used to during the last few weeks.

Zoot Allures immediately signals this new trend. FZ drifts out into unknown territories, and the rest of the band follows him. Daring stuff, not all of which is good, but an exciting opening nonetheless. Then we get some a couple of rather bland solos in In France, Alien Orifice, Trouble and Penguin, but the two last mentioned turn out interesting anyway. It's the rhythm section, including Alan and Bobby, that steals the attention, playing around with the worn-out vamps. In Hot Plate Heaven, it's FZ and Alan who do the
experimenting, a fairly good solo over this soon-to-be- dropped vamp.

Next, a suite of no less than 7 old doo-wop numbers, most of which we usually hear as encores. Here, they they serve very well as contrast and a little ear-rester before the upcoming adventures. Drowning Witch is not exactly easy-listening tonight - the first solo starts out rather beautiful, but near the end, FZ drifts far out, taking the unusually active Alan with him. The second solo jumps directly into dissonance land, where we get a long and beautiful journey, the best solo of the show so far. More guitar solos
follow: Ride My Face To Chicago, now with the Not Really A Reggae vamp, not very exciting. Bamboozled By Love, quite good, and King Kong, with FZ doing some more dissonance workouts.

Yes, you've heard it before: Let's Move To Cleveland is the highlight of the show. Alan plays a really good solo - he's often (rightly) accused of mostly repeating himself, but I'll admit that I don't recognize a single line he's playing here (except for a little Battle Hymn Of The Republicans quote). OK, he returns after Chad's solo to do The Volcano, but that's soon forgotten, when FZ steps into the spotlight. After a hesitative start where the boys familiarize with the loop, it's off into advanced improvisations. Scott
dictates the harmonic proceedings, Chad the rhythmic ones, Alan decorates it with his typical Cleveland sound effects, and FZ floats around on top of it all. Excellent stuff!

Goblin Girl/Black Page is an unusual but welcome encore combo. Chad and  Scott once again work out a cool vamp, but are put to a test when FZ suddenly triggers the loop again. They do a great work at adapting the vamp, and the end result is very challenging, both rhythmically and harmonically. Frank's playing, which seemed pretty uninspired for the first part of the solo reaches a new dimension. The final part is one of the most dissonant jams I've heard from a post-MOI band, somewhat hard on the ears, but
very exciting nevertheless. FZ's solo in the final song, Whippin' Post, sounds very dull after this.

The whole show clocks at under 100 minutes, but with 14 guitar solos and 7 doo-wop songs, we feel rather content. This tape might be worth digging out if you're into the more adventurous and dissonant side of the '84 band.


November 10th, 1984 early

Any show that starts with Zoot Allures, followed by six doo-wop songs, followed by Drowning Witch and Black Page can only be described as odd. And this show does even more than that to merit this description.

FZ's opening Zoot solo is one of the more intriguing of the tour, with Alan and Chad getting carried away in the background. Unusually, those two offer more in the way of weird comping than Thunes tonight. Drowning Witch follows the typical pattern for this tour - uninspired first solo, good second one - while Black Page finds FZ extracting some singular effects from his guitar. Deathless Horise is a tad rote, perhaps partly because Thunes seems to mix up the chord order.

FZ interrupts I'm The Slime to encourage the flow of panties to the stage (in "the great Philadelphia tradition"), and the theme permeates many subsequent songs. "Soup" also comes up as a related Secret Word.

Unfortunately, this show is odd in a few other ways : quite a few instrumental bloopers and botched segues, and it clocks in at well under 90 minutes, one of the shortest FZ sets ever. If doo wop, panty rapping and a few good solos adds up to a strong tape in your view, get this one. Otherwise, don't make it a priority.


November 10th, 1984 late

Frank is up to his evil, deceptive ways again, starting the show on crutches before throwing them to the ground and attacking. He starts things off with a horrible "Black Napkins". Everything about the tune is wrong- its arrangement, its short and pointless guitar solo, its place as opening song. Blah. "Advance Romance" follows and we realize we may be experiencing the most dismal start to any FZ show. But then, and it is a BIG but then, "Bamboozled By Love" comes roaring from out of nowhere and things start to turn around. The first positive sign: Frank starts his solo with a melodic, recognizable-but-I-cannot-place-it-I-think-it-is-an-early-80's-pop-hit quote, which paves the way for a melodic and interesting solo.

But then, and this is a smaller but then, "Cocaine Biz" takes center stage and we realize that we may no longer care. One of Frank's worst live songs (does anybody find that CD adds anything to a set list?) followed by a predictable blues number (though RW is soooo good!) and the doldrums begin to stir. Until, that is, Frank's whips out his sledgehammer and nails us over the head with one of his more emotionally charged solos, and "Outside Now" becomes the turning point for the show. "Truckdriver Divorce" is long and covers much rhythmic and melodic ground. "King Kong" contains a Frank solo worthy of the song's title, completely annihilating any claims that "King Kong" was a complete waste of time for this band. This solo redeems each and every performance, no matter how disappointing the others are. (Note: This King Kong feels like really good sex without the foreplay. Without the Monster build-up, Frank's solo arrives with a jolt, pulls you along for a hectic ride, and then drops you off breathless and pleasantly exhausted. Incredible feelings, yes, but an emptiness hovers over the experience.)

The show seems to peak with "More Trouble Every Day", which delivers what may be the best MTED solo post- '74. Long and aggressive and rhythmically all over the map, Frank and the boys hit peak after peak after peak but refuse to give up and let go. Frank has thoroughly exceeded expectations by the time this solo blows its last load, and the following "Penguin" and "Hot Plate" seem to find Frank agreeing with this notion. They are good solos, yes, but more content to be predictable. "Let's Move to Cleveland" arrives to tidily ties things up, but Frank refuses to go quietly into that dark night, and slowly churns out one of the most disturbing solos of the tour. Over a simple but diabolical bass motif, Frank etches out a dark and eerie tale. Frank's guitar playing could stand alone in this piece, but placed over the extremely patient and subtle Thunes and the end result is frankly unsettling. Realizing that Frank would later title this instant composition "Republicans" makes the solo even more frightening. Ooh!

The sound isn't that great, but f**k it. This show is a keeper.

(BTW, what happened to all the doo-wop songs?  I like those.  How come I didn't get to hear one?)


November 11th, 1984

We continue on the interesting Guitar Solos & Doo-Wop path that the band has been following for a few days. And again, we get a bunch of challenging solos which display a band (especially a Frank) that's willing to take risks. The first couple of solos, all of which are really good, span over a wide range of
styles, from high energy R&R (Bamboozled By Love, very long), through dissonance experiments (Drowning Witch #1, Black Page) to sheer melodic beauty (DW #2). The BP solo is nearly as out-there as in Boston two days earlier, with some excellent Chad fills in the background.

After the doo-wop interlude, it's Black Napkins which FZ should've let be this tour. But suddenly, FZ enters his Maniac Mood again, making an expectedly dull part of the show really interesting. His solo in Advance Romance is not as harmonically advanced as some of his previous efforts, but the attitude! It
made me think of a fall '80 solo, with Frank in a total frenzy, all over the place with great blend of techniques. But the real surprise is Trouble Every Day, probably my least favourite solo vehicle of the tour. Frank stays calm for the first few bars, before launching into pure madness, leaving all traditional harmonics and rhythmics behind. Scott and Chad keep up a steady beat, while Alan experiments with chords. The intensity is maintained through Penguin In Bondage, with another energetic, though short solo. The Hot Plate Heaven solo is much more controlled (yet explorative and very good!) than the previous workouts.

All this raises big hopes for Let's Move To Cleveland, and yeah, it does live up to the expectations. Alan's and Chad's solos aren't too remarkable, but Frank's is awesome! Somewhat similar to yesterday's "Republicans", with the same hypnotically pulsating rhythm/loop and FZ spanning over an amazing width
of emotions and styles. The ending part of this 6 min epic actually sounds like a 1978 Yo Mama, and leaves you with the same feeling of total satisfaction afterwards.

The encores, Dinah-Moe Humm + Joe's/Pee don't offer much, except for some secret word usage ("brown", a left-over from the night before, IIRC), which reminds us that this element has been almost absent during the last couple of shows. Oh well, this is the kind of '84 show that stands quite well without
secret words, due to some of the most inspired guitar playing I've heard from Frank so far this tour.